We are close to celebrating our 50th year of independence but we are still a nation divided by a false sense of ethno-religious superiority and feudalism. Many societies, including some which used to practice worse racial discrimination, have realised their mistake, repented and erased their chauvinism.
Social racism may still exists in these societies but there is a legal avenue for citizens to complain against racial injustice or discrimination. Moreover, special legislation are created to protect the rights of the minorities. Even in China, minorities are allowed to have two children (instead of the one-child policy imposed on the Han ethnic group), given special access to places in schools and universities as well as positions in governmental agencies. Cultural and ethnic diversity is celebrated as a national strength and a competitive advantage.
Many developed countries are now competing for skilled human resources. These countries are willing to grant citizenship - which come with equal rights and protection - to highly-skilled migrants in order to add greater depth to their knowledge and brain repository. Since 2005, postgraduate students pursuing their PhDs in European Union countries have been granted a PR status to allow them to continue living and working in the region.
Our politicians have not come to realise these realities around us. At a business forum on Monday, a prominent executive told the audience that the international market does not recognise bumiputera special rights or privileges. In order to become a global player, a company, regardless of the creed, race or religion of its employees, must be able to meet or surpass international standards.
With less than 15 years to go, our quest of becoming a First World nation will remain a dream if the government does not wake up to these realities fast. Recently, the government introduced the National Unity Plan to take us a step forward in nation-building.
Unfortunately, the UPM's Ethnic Relations textbook has taken us five steps backward. Its narrow-minded historical narration seeks to benefit no particular community. By choosing to reveal half-facts and half-truths, the Umno-led government is surely burning the bridges for social integration and national unity between communities in the country.
Higher Education Minister Mustapa Mohamed told Parliament that the textbook contained indisputable historical facts. One of the most contentious issues is the social contract. Suqiu's election appeals document, which had listed equal rights to all communities as one of its many items, is branded as extreme.
Perhaps the government is still in the mood for full disclosure. Full details of the social contract including the actual document, its signatories, points of agreement and other pertinent information should be made public and transparent. Like other contracts, the social contract, if it exists, can be renegotiated to adjust for current developments and for the contributions of all communities in the last 50 years. The historical narration of the nation should not be silenced with regards to the contributions of all communities over the last 50 years.
All races have contributed significantly to the making of a successful and modern Malaysia. The soil of Malaysia has taken the blood and sweat of all Malaysians. This is also an indisputable historical fact. Even former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad agreed and acknowledged these immense contributions.